Toxic leadership in the army

Subject: Political
Type: Expository Essay
Pages: 3
Word count: 847
Topics: Army, Leadership, Management, Military Science

Top commanders in the army have attested to having too many toxic leaders who make their employees exceptionally miserable. Although many larger corporations are suffering from bad leadership, toxic leadership is a major concern since it has detrimental consequences. Сurrently, army researchers are trying to substantiate whether toxic leadership contributes to  mental health problems among soldiers (Wright, 2015). Toxic leadership, by definition, refers to the combined self-centered attitudes, behaviors as well as motivations that undermine organizational effectiveness (Reed & Olsen, 2010). Therefore, the subsequent exposition indicates that toxic leadership in the army is manifested through negative consequences like increased suicide rates among soldiers, use of micro-management techniques, and overall negative impacts on morale and effectiveness of military units.

Toxic leadership in the U.S. army has its manifestations with the ever-increasing number of soldiers currently bearing the consequences of bad leadership. An estimated 20 percent of soldiers are suffering from toxic leadership as exhibited by the growing suicide rates (Bonenberger, 2013). Wright (2015) attested that that toxic leadership is the major contributory factor to high suicide rates among soldiers.  Although soldiers who take their own lives have personal problems, the problem drives them over the edge as it makes life a living hell. The worst part is that the U.S. casualties from toxic leadership presently rival deaths from enemy combat. The leadership issue explains the problems facing soldiers because most leaders lack concern for others, do not develop an organizational climate thereby. Soldiers are also driven over the edge when facing personal problems since toxic leaders embrace dysfunctional behaviors to intimidate, deceive, coerce and unfairly punish their counterparts in a bid to serve their self-interests (Reed, & Olsen, 2010). Therefore, toxic leadership, as a problem in the US army, stems from the self-centered leadership as shown from the many soldiers succumbing to frustrations, coercion and mistreatment.

Toxic leadership in the military is displayed by the self-centered tactics and approaches by commanders. For one, a common trait of toxic leaders is micro-management as they take advantage of others and invade their privacy (Reed & Olsen, 2010). In the army, it has become apparent that overly energetic leaders are interested in invading the private affairs of their peers, subordinates, and superiors. Hence, a foremost issue in the army is how leaders are more concerned with the affairs of their subordinates at the expense of the interest of the organization. It has become common for leaders to search office spaces and desks of subordinates to implicate them or look for problems. In essence, it shows how toxic leadership has invaded the army as leaders disregard feelings, private property, feelings and personal dignity.  It is also common for army leaders to read others’ emails, whether private or public, with the assumption that they could be hiding, listen to their phone calls and as such, assume the right to monitor others without consent.  Concrete evidence from those who have served in the army confirms the toxic leadership issue. For example, in his article in New York Times, Bonenberger (2013) mentioned the 2011 study carried out by the Center for Army Leadership that reported how toxic leaders range at around one in every five leaders. Interviews with veterans and personal experiences led Bonenberger (2013) to conclude that at least 20 percent of leaders are toxic in the army. Hence, the evidence confirms the growing number of army leaders who are currently using micro-management techniques to undermine others and embrace a self-centered approach to leading the units.

Finally, toxic leadership in the army diminishes or reduces the effectiveness of the soldiers and has greater prospects for undermining the army’s mission.  In most cases, platoon leaders take turns in tormenting their subordinates, competing on who can come up with the worst torture, duties and make life miserable (Bonenberger, 2013). The actions have adverse effects on soldiers as they are exposed to mental and psychological torture which eventually reduce their productivity and effectiveness (Wright, 2015). Toxic leaders are responsible for the decline in army morale, degraded communication, and stress.  When exposed to stress and psychological torture, the soldiers barely go the extra mile and commit to working with the toxic leaders (Reed & Olsen, 2010).  Today’s military requires commitment and dedication, but with toxic leadership, morale is ever declining and this has resulted in little motivation and engagement with the mission duties.  Prolonged negative leadership undermines the will, initiative, as well as the individual potential with the overall effects, felt on the destruction of the unit morale.

In summary, toxic leadership is a growing problem in the army, where platoon leaders and commanders take advantage of their positions to inflict psychological and mental torture on lower-ranked soldiers. Toxic leadership implies that an individual is assuming a micro-management approach of being self-centered with limited regard to others’ feelings and needs. The increasing rates of suicide among soldiers are attributed to toxic leadership. Low morale and lack of commitment is also a product of mistreatment from the leaders. Finally, the problem manifests in the reduced effectiveness and productivity among soldiers which impedes the army from successfully meeting its mission.

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  1. Bonenberger, A. (2013, Aug). Crises can be averted by dismissing toxic leaders. New York Times.
  2.  Reed, G. E., & Olsen, R. A. (2010). Toxic leadership: Part Deux. Military Review, 90(6), 58-64.
  3. Wright, K. D. (2015). Great results through bad leaders. Military Review, 95(3), 33-39.
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